Juventus XI: How my favorite players would line up!

Growing up a Juventus supporter has had its many benefits from watching club captains lift one trophy after another to players excelling and winning individual awards such as the Ballon d’Or- earned once each by Roberto Baggio, Zinedine Zidane and Pavel Nedved between 1993 and 2003.

Unfortunately, football- just like almost anything in life- is cyclical. As a fan, I’ve witnessed the highs of the mid 1990s till 2003 as well as the lows starting with Serie B in 2006 followed by the struggles upon returning to Serie A (prior to the successful era ushered by Andrea Agnelli, coach Antonio Conte, star midfielder Andrea Pirlo and others…)

During the peak years of Serie A and amid Juve’s great run in the mid-90s, there were moments of great joy such as winning the first Scudetto in nine years in 1994/95 followed by the Champions League triumph in 1995/96, but there were also some extremely disappointing lows such as losing the Champions League final in two successive years in 1997 and 1998. The losses to BVB (Dortmund) and Real Madrid were quite painful.

Born out of all the joy and misery, a fan builds a connection with the squad and players- even if through watching matches on TV, or reading about the club and players in magazines and newspapers (90s didn’t have social media and certainly the internet wasn’t as readily accessible and lacked the intense coverage of football) and so forth.

Below is a list of my favorite XI from my life-time as a supporter. It is purely based on sentiment:

1) Gianluigi Buffon: Even before joining Juventus, Italy and Juve legend Buffon made a name for himself at Parma. Buffon kept a clean sheet in his first start against Milan whilst dealing with legends such as Roberto Baggio and George Weah.

Buffon’s legacy was not just winning the World Cup in 2006, winning the most Coppa Italia trophies, breaking individual records, or lifting one Scudetto after another, but rather his willingness to sacrifice for the team as seen in 2006 when he could have gone just about anywhere but decided to go down with the club to help bring back the club from Serie B (despite being the best goalkeeper in the world).

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Buffon was also a great symbol not just for Juve and Italy but also for football and athletes in general. Too many words can be used to describe this legend- hard work, focus, humility, loyalty and passion for the game are but a few labels to describe him.

2) Giorgio Chiellini: I remember Chiellini joining the club and initially serving as a left-back. One thing about Chiellini has not changed: he was always willing to put his well-being at risk for the sake of the club. He played as if every game was his last one and often reacted to goal-saving tackles with such great joy as if he was making his first decisive tackle.

During Euro 2008, Chiellini stood out in my opinion as Italy’s wall and potentially most critical player. He looked unbreakable against France and Spain. Thus, it was fitting when he achieved his greatest triumph with the national team during another European championship in 2021 (Euro 2020).

Chiellini’s longevity, willingness to sacrifice, loyalty & humbleness are all great traits- notably ones he also shared with the great Buffon. Chiellini had several memorable moments whether in a Juve or Azzurri shirt. He will retire as one of the best center-backs in Juve’s and football history.

3) Paolo Montero: The Uruguayan simply tormented opponents- they were frightened to play against Montero. The downside to all this is the fact he received 16 Red cards in Serie A alone! Montero formed an impenetrable partnership with another club legend in Ciro Ferrara. Coaching icon Marcello Lippi relied on the duo to build a strong foundation for his success while at the helm in Turin.

4) Moreno Torricelli: It is unlikely many would have Torricelli as part of their XI but this is all about opinion and sentiment. Geppetto, as he was referred to by Roberto Baggio, was a carpenter too and perhaps that played a role in turning Moreno into this hungry, eager, fiery and dedicated player. However, Torricelli could be relied on to play the full 90 minutes and more as he was not one who would do a “Montero” and earn a red.

For those who measure success only by trophies, Moreno went on to help Juve play in three consecutive Champions League finals (including winning the 1996 final) not to mention winning the UEFA Cup in 1993 (and sadly losing another final in 1995 against Parma despite his assist on Gianluca Vialli’s remarkable volley). He also helped Juve win a first Scudetto since 1986!

5) Edgar Davids: The great Lippi would go on to refer to him as his “one man engine room“ and Davids was certainly worthy of that label. The Dutchman helped Juve win three league titles while also contributing to the club reaching two Champions League finals- 1998 and 2003- only for Juve to lose both in heart-breaking fashion. Davids, like most of the names on this XI, was very tenacious and combative yet he was also skillful enough to be able to carry the ball, dribble, pass, assist, shoot and score. Indeed, Davids was exactly as advertised by Lippi!

6) Andrea Pirlo: Pirlo left Juve as legend on the field- his tears following the 1-3 defeat to Barcelona serving as a reminder that behind all this confidence and calmness on the ball, there still was a human being who suffered from the burden of losing an important match.

Without Pirlo, Juve would not have dominated Serie A the way they did. The Bianconeri may not have won the league if Pirlo had not joined the club following his departure from Milan. Pirlo would go on to be named Serie A Footballer of the Year for three consecutive years while wearing the famous black & white jersey. His influence went beyond free-kicks, assists and goals to encompass dictating games, proving to be an example for others- particularly Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchisio- on top of his role as a silent leader.

7) Zinedine Zidane: Before Pirlo, Juve had Zidane. They were different yet they perhaps had more in common than not. Both were more of the silent leaders on the pitch. Both were midfielders and were extremely talented. They were able to retain possession, score from set-pieces and so forth.

Both won the World Cup once. Zidane would single-handedly crush opponents in the Champions League, most notably his majestic performance against Ajax in that semi-final, yet he would fail in the final against BVB in 1997 and again against Real Madrid in 1998. He would lift the Ballon d’or in 1998 whilst still at Juve.

8) Pavel Nedved: The former Bianconeri star, nicknamed Furia Ceca, edged this one over two of my other favorites- most recently Marchisio and in the past Mauro Camoranesi.

Along with Zidane and the great Baggio, Nedved is another player in my Juve XI who would go on to win a Ballon d’Or while wearing the beloved black & white shirt. Nedved was versatile and could do damage with either foot. He helped Juve reach the Champions League final in 2003 only to miss it due to a yellow card in the semi-final! Sadly, Juve could not lift the trophy without their suspended star. Nedved was also another loyal star who went down to Serie B. He did win more trophies with Lazio, but he made some of his biggest contributions whilst wearing the Bianconeri colors- particularly that fascinating Champions League run in 2003.

9) Alessandro Del Piero: Del Piero probably holds most of the individual records as a Juve player but what made him special were two important traits: loyalty and his ability to adapt.

Del Piero- just as the great Buffon (and the unknown Chiellini back then)- dropped with the team to Serie B. He resisted offers and remained loyal to the Bianconeri cause.

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What made Del Piero most special though was his ability to tailor his game to the changes and development in football but above all his severe injury in the late 1990s. Del Piero was emerging as one of the best in the world during the mid 1990s yet sadly that injury would derail him and would cost him about three years- the year he was injured 1999 followed up by two more seasons before he was able to return to his “new” best.

As one can see, several of the XI I’ve chosen are represented by the great designs of https://stripedheartsapparel.com/ so do not hesitate to visit the site and pick up some wonderful Juve designs- it is guaranteed to bring up memories.

10) Roberto Baggio: Back in the 1990s, at least for me, international football still mattered. My friends and I would look forward to national team matches whenever they were penciled in on the year’s calendar.

Perhaps the best Italian player since 1990, Baggio would define World Cup 1994 almost from start to finish. He was subbed-off during that precious 1-0 win over Norway. He would follow that by carrying Italy past Nigeria, Spain and Bulgaria. He would suffer an injury prior to the final against Brazil. Baggio would go on to miss a penalty during the shoot-out in the final, the one that most fans remember though in reality he was not the only one to miss a penalty-kick for the Azzurri.

Baggio had the goal of the tournament during Italy 1990 while he left a positive impression when he came on as a substitute during World Cup 1998. On the club level, Baggio’s best years were with Juve and he won the Ballon d’Or in 1993. He helped Juve win a domestic double during the 1994/95 season but some fans may not know he was the top scorer in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup competition during the 1990/91 season.

He was praised by many players and singled out as one of the best players to have as a teammate.

11) Fabrizio Ravanelli: This was a simple decision at the end since Ravanelli, aka Penna Bianca, scored in the Champions League final against Ajax in 1996 to help Juve lift the precious Big Ears trophy!

Ravanelli made other great contributions, including being top-scorer in Coppa Italia during the 1994/95 season and more importantly helping Juve win their first Scudetto since 1986.

On an individual level, the White Feather scored all 5 goals in that memorable 5-1 win over CSKA Sofia in the UEFA Cup competition in 1994. It was going to be a tough call between him and a couple of my other favorites- his teammate Gianluca Vialli and a more recent ex-Juve star Carlos Tevez but Ravanelli edged this comfortably at the end.

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He also formed a unique and lethal attacking trident with Baggio (followed by Del Piero) and Vialli- a trio that combined talent, hard work and physical prowess. Ravanelli also had the cool nickname Penna Bianca (the White Feather in English), and obviously Ravanelli topped it all off with the all important goal in the Champions League final against Ajax to give him the edge over Vialli and Tevez.

Furthermore, Ravanelli had one more trick up his sleeve to put this three-way challenge with Vialli and Tevez beyond their reach: his goal celebrations! I recall growing up imitating his goal celebrations while playing with my friends. In simple terms, Fabrizio was a great mainstay for me due to his goal against Ajax, but also the bond a young fan creates with his football heroes due to acts that transcend the game.

Baggio did it with his feet and magic, Del Piero with his love for the club and many goals while Ravanelli did so with his goal celebrations and impactful contributions on multiple fronts- winning the domestic double in 94/95 and then lifting the all important Big Ears in 1996.

Obviously I would have no one other than the iconic Lippi lead my favorite Bianconeri XI. He helped rebuild Juve after several years- nine to be exact- without a league title. He helped orchestrate Juve’s drive in Europe with the club reaching three consecutive Champions League finals- winning the first one in 1996.

Lippi would also go on to have a second successful stint with the club. His legendary status would be cemented even further after he brilliantly guided Italy to a triumph in World Cup 2006 against all odds.

Alberto returns to talk about his latest project born out of his love for Juventus

There is no doubt Alberto is a massive Juventus fan yet that is not what makes him a popular and well-loved person. It was a pleasure to have him in a two-part Q&A back in April 2020. In fact, just over a month ago Alberto discussed in an initial Q&A Juve legends from Roberto Baggio to Alessandro Del Piero and Gianluigi Buffon.

Alberto is also involved heavily on Twitter and social media in general. You can follow him on his Twitter handle @AllJuveCast. He not only focuses on promoting Juve and sharing his stories as well as trying to give a voice to other Bianconeri fans but he also has great giveaways including historic Juve kits from his tremendous collection.

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In recent times, Alberto has taken his love for the Bianconeri a few steps further and mixed that passion for the club with his thoughtfulness and generosity. Alberto has helped design a plethora of shirts- obviously with a strong Bianconeri theme. When asked about his newest project, Alberto happily took time from his busy schedule to briefly discuss @Striped_Hearts and what the project stands for.

Even the designs which finally make it to the production phase are chosen carefully and are made available to the public- well, Juve fans to be specific- after a nod of approval from the Juve faithful. In Alberto’s own words: “the designs are voted for by Juve fans worldwide and only the most popular ones are then taken to production.”

This highlights what kind of person Alberto is. He is not only loyal to the club and a very ardent supporter, but he is also heavily involved in spreading word and sharing fabulous stories about the Bianconeri. However, as great as Alberto’s work has been to give a vote to the Juve supporters who at times feel disengaged or left out, his finest work is the fact this project is also a for a good cause on top of being a labor of love.

Alberto mentions that: “Proceeds of all sales go to a rotating carousel of charities I support as well,” and this in itself highlights his giving nature and his willingness not only to give the time and effort to further promote Juve and other club-related aspects but also a strong desire to help in every possible way. Politicians carry an agenda, Alberto carries the Bianconeri colors in his heart but also seeks to do good in the name of the club he loves.

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Fan Zone: Alberto on Baggio, Del Piero, Buffon and more!

As a big Juventus fan, Alberto is known for his extensive collection of Juve kits and for being extremely active in promoting Juve related events and podcasts on social media, specifically Twitter.

You can follow Alberto @alljuvecast and don’t forget to check out @striped_hearts too! Let’s not waste too much time and get to the exciting part with the Q&A below:

1) Who are your THREE all-time favorite Juve players, and why? 

Alessandro Del Piero: He really solidified my love and passion for Juve. He mesmerized me with his play and scored so many captivating goals and was an absolute pleasure to watch. With time he repaid the club with incredible gestures of loyalty- a value that is fading in the modern game but one that I admire a lot.

Roberto Baggio: He is the one who began my love for Juve. An absolutely and incredibly talented player- arguably the best Italian to ever player the game. My dad used to rewind his goals and watch them over and over in disbelief. I remember sitting there with him and then beginning to pretend I was him when I played in the yard.

Gianluigi Buffon: I was over the moon when we signed him and the rest is history. So many matches. So many memories. The absolute best goalkeeper in my opinion and one hell of a man. Another whose loyalty shall never be forgotten, specifically when he could’ve gone anywhere to play. So many incredible saves and his unforgettable reactions to defenders making a stop or our team scoring a goal! All of them are embedded in my brain forever. He is top class. We are incredibly fortunate as Juve fans to witness all three of them wearing our kit.

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2) From the current squad, please rank your favorite Juve player by position (DEF, MID & STR), and mention why for each pick?

DEF: My pick would be Chiellini. He still has this presence that is yet to be matched by someone when he is out of our lineup. The team did well while he was out but it’s not the same. We have done great by signing de Ligt as well as Merih Demiral but currently for me in defense Chiellini would be a go to in a crucial match if healthy. I can see Demiral as the closest one today to having the same type of presence and the one defender that forwards will dread having to face.

MID: Going with Bentancur. I really enjoy the way he plays. Head is always on a swivel and he is always looking to advance the play. Has a great engine and gets stuck in tackles too. He has the occasional sloppy fouls leading to cards but he is still very young and I feel his ceiling is quite high and I’m excited about him.

STR: Dybala is my pick. My personal favorite in the forward lineup as amazing as it is to watch Ronaldo in our lineup and to see him scoring goals (still surreal at times), I would still go with Dybala. He is so talented and fun to watch but even more importantly he loves the club and is proud to wear our kit, represent Juve and also the number 10.

3) Now onto a question many would like to hear your answer to: Would you pick Roberto Baggio or Del Piero for your team, and why?

This is killing me… and there is no wrong answer with these two, but if I could have Del Piero pre-injury I would pick him because I feel he would’ve been the one the upcoming greats would always be compared to. If you watch him before that injury- took him a year to recover from- he was a different animal. He had it all. The acceleration, pace, agility and he could kill you with creativity and distribution as well as scoring himself on top being an absolute master of free-kicks. A pre-injury Del Piero at a time when Serie A was stacked with talent, particularly defenders, was an absolute menace and I would take him.

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4) Dybala is having a solid season after a disappointing 2018/19 campaign. Where do you see him finishing this season in terms of total goals & assists in the league? And how important is he to Juve’s success?

I think Dybala would finish somewhere around 16 or so goals and close to same or just a bit higher on assists depending on game time. I’m not really sure what he needs to do to get in the starting XI on a regular basis. Dybala in my opinion is highly important to Juve’s success. We know our midfield has been a work in progress so Dybala’s ability to switch play and link up with the midfielders and other attackers is crucial as well as his own ability to finish given the opportunity.

5) Name your all-time favorite Juve match, and why?

My favorite match has to be the second leg of the 2002/03 Champions League semi-final vs Real Madrid. This is one of my absolute favorite Juventus squads ever. That 02/03 squad had it all and could hurt you in so many different ways. That Juve side had to face an incredibly talented Real Madrid side on top of being behind to Real after the first leg.

Still, Juve’s players were not intimidated or going to go down without a fight and as talented and strong as a team the Bianconeri were, I think of how dominant Lippi’s team was on that night. It was still a little bit surprising. I knew my Juve could do it but to dominate them like that was unbelievable. That win in Turin. The goals and the celebrations were iconic and I still get goosebumps watching it 17 years later. Just an absolute must watch for any new Juve fan.

6) Which Juve win is the most important one in your life-time? And why?

For me it is the 1996 Champions League win. Despite how many times we’ve made it to the Champions League finals, you just can’t take it for granted and getting to see Juve win one is something that will stay with me forever.

7) What is Juve’s objective for this season? Is it Serie A, the Champions League or both? 

I would say both and I think it has to be when you are that dominant domestically naturally the next step is Europe.

8) If football resumes, will Juve overturn the result against Lyon? How confident are you?

There’s no doubt in my mind Juve will turn it around. 100% confident we are moving on.

9) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid meeting in the knock-out stages of the Champions League before reaching the Final?

I would like to avoid Bayern Munich. They were playing some electric football before the shut down and they’re scoring a lot of goals. They’ve found their groove and are scoring at will and have Lewandowski on fire. I’d like to avoid them.

10) Which one team would you like Juve to avoid playing if the Bianconeri make it to the final?

Not a single team. The next final Juve make, they are winning it all! Fino alla Fine, Forza Juve!